Title: A Toxic Trousseau (Witchcraft Mystery 8)
Author: Juliet Blackwell
Publication Date: 2016
Lily Ivory, owner of the successful vintage clothing shop Aunt Cora’s Closet in San Francisco, is a witch; but even that can’t insulate her from the realities of business ownership. When her witch’s familiar, a pig named Oscar, knocks over a customer, Lily finds herself being sued for compensation for the victim’s personal injuries. When Lily’s employees and Oscar himself claim the incident was very minor, Lily decides to approach the accuser.
Autumn Jennings owns her own vintage clothing shop in a more fashionable area of the city and deals with much higher quality couture garments; many of which she sells to museums. When Lily and Maya enter her store, they find it deserted. As they search for the owner, Autumn appears holding a gun. It becomes quickly evident that she is unwell and passes out; she is rushed to the hospital. When her death is pronounced, the cause becomes quickly apparent – poison. Because of the lawsuit and Lily’s presence at the crime scene, she quickly becomes a suspect and her own shop is closed as it is searched for evidence.
Lily discovers that Autumn had acquired an antique trousseau with an old curse. As she delves into the history of the trunk and its contents, a dark and cryptic past is revealed that has ties to the modern day.
If that wasn’t enough, local head of the magic community, Aidan Rhodes is called out of town and asks Lily to supervise his bureaucratic duties. Juggling agreements with the mayor, settling disputes between witches, assisting with the licensing of fortune-tellers and necromancers, and being placed in charge of Aidan’s legendary satchel, challenges Lily’s patience and negotiating skills.
To top everything else off, for employee Brownyn’s birthday, Lily has been invited, along with the rest of the witch’s coven, to spend the night in the infamous Rodchester House of Spirits, a hundred room mansion in the South Bay that was built by the owner to appease the spirits of the dead who were killed by Rodchester rifles. With so many conflicts and uncertainties, Lily feels bombarded with threats and malevolence. The question is where exactly is it coming from and can she figure it out before it is too late!
Oops! I read this one quite a while ago, but forgot to post my commentary.
I have read all the Lily Ivory books and I really enjoy them. They are paranormal based but I don’t really categorize them as “cozy.” I especially enjoy the author’s use of vintage clothing to tell the stories. Clothing tells so much about the history, customs, values, and social codes of its time period. The descriptions of and references to the garments in the trousseau are fascinating and at times terrifying as you realize what some of the materials used to make them were!
Lily is a very like-able character and the paranormal aside, she truly has grown as an individual and a shopkeeper over the course of the series. The cast of secondary characters – Bronwyn, Maya, Oscar, Sailor – also have grown and their complexity adds to the depth of the plot-lines. Of course, I am also a fan of any series set in San Francisco; a city with such a vibe of history, culture, and eclecticism, really anything can happen!
I also loved the description of the Rodchester Mystery House. It is obviously based on the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. The widow of the maker of the Winchester rifles felt haunted by the spirits of those killed by the guns, so she built a house “designed” by and meant to appeal to the spirits. I remember reading about it in a Weekly Reader as a kid; when we took a family vacation to the West Coast, it was one of the places that I insisted we visit. It really is an amazing house: doors that go nowhere, interior stained glass windows, stairs with two inch treads. Regardless how you feel about ghosts, the house is quite impressive . . . and just a bit creepy!
Who might like this book:
These are paranormal mysteries, which don’t appeal to everyone. If you do like this type of mystery though, I think you would enjoy the series. I am also a fan of Ellen Byerrum’s Crimes of Fashion series which also uses clothing as the basis for the story-lines and I think fans of each story would enjoy the other. I would, as always, recommend that they are read in order. They stand alone as a story, but I think work a lot better as a continuing saga or adventure.
Here are the books in order:
A Cast-off Coven
Hexes and Hemlines
In a Witch’s Wardrobe
Tarnished and Torn
A Vision in Velvet
A Toxic Trousseau